The Piper-Heidsieck Rare Rosé Vintage 2007 is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS ZAREBINSKI

Piper-Heidsieck sure hopes so.

By Shivani Vora
September 24, 2016

Christopher Descours will never forget the delicious moment when he tasted the champagne that would be called the Piper-Heidsieck Rare Rosé Vintage 2007. First came the trademark pop, then the satisfying sip: distinctly crisp, fruity, and full-bodied. “When I tried it, I knew it was that special champagne I had been waiting for,” says Descours, chairman of Européenne de Participations Industrielles SAS (EPI), a privately held conglomerate.

For Descours, the pink-tinted sparkler wasn’t just another champagne to add to Piper-Heidsieck’s lineup, which includes five others. It was the first one that Descours helped bring to fruition after acquiring the 231-year-old label from French spirits company Rémy Cointreau in 2011 for $531 million (the sale also included the prestigious boutique champagne label Charles Heidsieck).

Until then, the family-owned EPI was known for its premium French fashion brands, such as Bonpoint children’s clothes and the shoe labels J.M. Weston and François Pinet. Now the portfolio included a champagne house with a long history, and one that produced the ninth-most-sold champagne in the U.S. in 2014—360,000 cases were snapped up that year alone, according to wine and spirits publication VinePair.

The Rare Rosé champagne was already in the works when EPI bought Piper-Heidsieck. But Descours was an eager collaborator, sitting in on tastings and visiting grape growers. “This champagne is my chance to make a stamp on Piper and in the world of champagne,” Descours says.

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Presented in a black lacquered-wood box with rose-gold metallic trim, the Rare Rosé is only the ninth vintage and the first rosé vintage Piper-Heidsieck has released. Only 1,500 bottles—a small fraction of its annual production of 5 million bottles—were produced this year and went on sale in September. Half were shipped to the U.S., where Piper retail sales in 2015 were $17.6 million. It’s the brand’s second-largest export market, after Australia.

Exclusivity doesn’t come cheap. Piper-Heidsieck’s price, $450 a bottle, could make it a hard sell, according to Ed McCarthy, a wine consultant and author of Champagne for Dummies. “Piper-Heidsieck doesn’t have the cachet of a Dom, Krug, or Cristal and is known for being a mass-produced brand, so getting champagne drinkers to associate it with this kind of luxury won’t necessarily be easy,” he says. Still, Americans are drinking more rosé champagne: According to the Comité Champagne, an organization that represents the Champagne region, 2.98 million bottles of the rosé variety were exported to the U.S. from Champagne in 2015, compared with 1.31 million bottles in 2005. For Descours, though, ­statistics aren’t what make him optimistic. “I love everything about champagne—the freshness, the bubbles, and how easy it is to drink at any time for any occasion,” he says, adding “buying Piper wasn’t just a business decision. It was also a personal one.”

A version of this article appears in the October 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “A Taste for Bubbly.”

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